Newest Americans thrilled to become citizens
It was a special day atop Colorado National Monument Wednesday morning, although young Sasha Serebrennicova wasn’t exactly sure why.
The 7-year-old didn’t realize that as his parents, Ivan and Marta, raised their right hands and took the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America that all the rights of the greatest nation on earth had just been bestowed upon him, too.
Five years ago, the Serebrennicova family brought their son to the United States from Moldova, where they had won a visa lottery. They call themselves lucky to have received their green card shortly after, allowing them to stay and work in the United States while they obtained citizenship.
“It has been an amazing journey and a great path to citizenship,” Marta said as she hugged Sasha.
Forty-eight people participated in the naturalization ceremony at the Saddlehorn Picnic Area. They came from 18 nations including Brazil, Burma, Chile, India and Spain.
They earned their seats by completing all of the general eligibility requirements, which include being a lawful resident of the U.S. for at least five years, learning to speak, read and write the English language, passing an American civics test, and proving good moral character through extensive background checks.
Also, as part of the naturalization provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act, any child under the age of 18 who is a lawful resident of the U.S. may automatically acquire citizenship along with their parents.
“This is not meant to be an easy road,” said U.S. Magistrate Judge Gordon P. Gallagher, as he addressed the new citizens and the standing-room-only crowd of supporters.
“I hope this is a first step on a much longer road to becoming participating and active members of this nation,” Gallagher said.
He encouraged the new citizens to vote, get involved in their communities through volunteerism, and stay informed about political issues.
The oath puts the new citizens on equal footing with every other citizen in the United States, he said.
As a special part of the ceremony, Gallagher invited anyone to speak at the microphone about their journey to citizenship.
New citizen Sandra Dias could hardly contain her excitement as she spoke. Dias, from Jamaica, traveled to the United States in 1998. “I just fell in love with America ever since,” she said.
Now a resident of Steamboat Springs, she said, “It is a privilege to be an American citizen.”
Dias was the only one to address the crowd.
For some, citizenship was much more emotional and private. Many said they wanted to become citizens not only for themselves but for their children.
“Everything I do is for my son and my family,” said Patricia Jimenez, 25, who immigrated from Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico.
Others, like Bo Yu from China, said he had found a country that he loved. “I like the values the American people share. Freedom, equality, and diversity — all these things make America great,” he said.
Filipe Cisneros, from Jalisco, Mexico, said he had been in the U.S. since 1989. He had wanted to become a citizen for a long time, he explained, but had been scared of the process. “I feel like this is already my country and I’m pretty excited about this day,” he said.
The naturalization ceremony took place in conjunction with Constitution and Citizenship Week, a week that commemorates the signing of the Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.
More than 100 similar ceremonies are taking place this week at America’s national parks, said Kristi Barrows, district director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“Hosting these ceremonies here (in national parks) makes it more memorable. Making it special is what’s it’s all about,” she said.